Opportunities for Blockchain-Based Technologies in African Healthcare

Emerging technologies such as blockchain can dramatically improve the situation with the healthcare industry in Africa by its implementation.
One of the linchpins of the internet is the ability to access and share data seamlessly. Whether it’s financial metrics for an institution or something as innocuous as a meme, the internet’s distinct pathways of protocols and standardization are the ideal medium for exchanging information.That transmissibility of information has not translated well to specific industries, however.Regulatory moats, cumbersome and outdated database architecture, and poorly designed user interfaces are a hindrance to major industries — particularly healthcare. Even in the United States, where healthcare standards are high, onerous regulatory processes inhibit the ability of doctors to adequately share patient information across state lines or access sensitive medical data from past care providers.Related: How Blockchain Will Revolutionize HealthcareIf there’s a silver lining to COVID-19, it’s that it has induced a long-overdue examination of many archaic aspects of the healthcare system. When we apply these lessons to emerging markets, such as Africa, the horizon for change coming out of the crisis looks promising.Africa’s healthcare problems are opportunitiesThe maxim that “every problem is an opportunity in disguise” applies aptly to the COVID-19 pandemic and the overall healthcare situation in Africa — COVID-19 aside. For context, Africa’s healthcare system is overburdened, lacks adequate resources and does not have a unified approach to its myriad endemic diseases ranging from Malaria to HIV/AIDS and Ebola.World organizations such as the United Nations have taken an active role in bolstering the healthcare system in Africa for decades, but the progress is slow and lacks technological innovation. For example, African countries are making meaningful strides in preventing childhood diseases, with 60% or more children now immunized for measles — largely the effort of nonprofits and the United Nations.On the contrary, public-private healthcare partnerships remain sparse on the continent (especially with foreign companies), yet they represent the greatest opportunity for bringing cutting-edge technologies to African medical facilities. In many cases, these technologies can be as simple as mobile diagnosis tools and more developed IT infrastructure.The problem isn’t a lack of third-party donations and assistance to the African healthcare system. The same problem that, in many cases, hinders innovative tinkering in the developed world — adequate data sharing.For example, telehealth was disparaged by many medical professionals in the U.S. before COVID-19. Now, however, it appears that telehealth is here to stay. Some of the early concerns with telehealth (i.e., telemedicine) are well-founded, though. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act standards for privacy and security of patient medical data are embedded into hospital practices and procedures, severely limiting the amount of data that can be shared between medical institutions without cumbersome processes. In addition, many major healthcare institutions in the U.S. rely on disparate IT systems, including non-congruent databases for storing and indexing patient data.This has profound consequences on data sharing in the medical community.Some medical providers may even be unwilling to share data for fear of not being able

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